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(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Prior to the Belgariad, David Eddings had published only High Hunt (1973), a science-fiction novel. The Belgariad was his first foray into the world of fantasy, followed soon after by a sequel series entitled the Malloreon (1987-1991). He has also written two other unrelated series and expected to return to the world of the Belgariad and the Malloreon with a pair of prequels that focus on Belgarath’s and Polgara’s conflict with Torak and his minions when the Orb of Aldur was first created.

In the Belgariad, Eddings creates a complex and believable world by including minute details and establishing an elaborate historical background based on an intricate social and political structure. Add to that his amazing ability to invest even the smallest characters with complete and complex lives, and it is easy to see why the Belgariad has proven to be so popular.

In spite of the popularity of his books, Eddings has his critics. The most damaging criticism has been the accusation that his books are merely derivative of the work of J. R. R. Tolkien. This accusation is difficult to counter because high fantasy has been defined by Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955), and thus most of what is considered high fantasy can point to Tolkien as an influence. Eddings does use traditional motifs—the quest, the prophecy, artifacts of magic, and the final arcane duel—but he does so in an interesting and compelling way. Eddings does, however, prove derivative in the Malloreon series—derivative of himself. In this sequel to the Belgariad, Eddings tells the same story with the same plot. This seems to be a habit for him, as he repeats the same formula with another of his fantasy series, the Elenium (1989-1991), and its sequel series, the Tamuli (begun in 1991).

The plot of the Belgariad is straightforward and uncomplicated. The success of the book comes from Eddings’ abilities as a world builder and his skill with character and dialogue. Belgarion is young and often appears to be a whiner; Ce’Nedra is similarly childish. The other major characters more than make up for the faults of these two. Silk, probably the masterpiece of this series, is snide and outspoken, with a strange vulnerability and outrageous sense of humor that make him compelling. Each of the...

(The entire section is 583 words.)